Week 174

STT again

This week on Wednes­day I found myself in the love­ly KNAW build­ing to talk about the far future of applied game design. I was invit­ed to do so by STT, togeth­er with David Shaf­fer, Jeroen van Mas­trigt and Jeroen Elf­ferich. I talked about the inca­pac­i­ty of design as well as sci­ence fic­tion to effec­tive­ly imag­ine a future, how to deal with that as a design­er, and two areas that I see as tru­ly vir­gin ter­ri­to­ry for applied game design: the new type of city we’ve seen emerge in the East, and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy. I got some nice respons­es and some chal­leng­ing ques­tions from the crowd, so I guess things went OK. The anno­tat­ed slides will find their way to the Hub­bub blog soon.

Aside from this, I spent the week work­ing on PLAY Pilots — con­tin­u­ing work on the next pilot for Le Guess Who? togeth­er with Monoban­da. And at the HKU, work­ing with my stu­dents on the Pam­pus project. Final­ly, my interns have kicked off their third game at the Learn­ing Lab, this one run­ning on their inter­nal blog plat­form. It involves mon­keys and a blind drag­on. Look­ing for­ward to the write­up for that one.

Quite a few bits of con­tent found their way online too, by the way. In case you missed them the first time around, here they are:

Plus a video of the Boc­ce Drift ses­sion Hub­bub ran a while back:

Week 171 & 172

I have a lot on my plate at the moment. A bit too much it seems. So it’s a good thing I got to wrap up a few things in the past two weeks…

Most notably Maguro, for which we pre­sent­ed our design to the client last wednes­day. We gave away quite a show, includ­ing music and spo­ken word per­for­mances. The whole thing was well-received.

Anoth­er deliv­ery of a kind was This hap­pened – Utrecht #7. Nev­er before did it take us so long to com­plete our speak­er line­up. It’s an expe­ri­ence I would like to pre­vent in future, but we couldn’t real­ly help it. As a result, I had very few expec­ta­tions about this par­tic­u­lar one, but it turned out great. We even man­aged to try out a few new things. A new clock, and a new “badge” (actu­al­ly a but­ton). Good stuff. Some nice reports have been writ­ten about it, too.

More deliv­er­ies, at the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val we had a good run with PLAY Pilots live game num­ber two: De Stere­oscoop by Zes­baans. We man­aged to get some nice pub­lic­i­ty, we had it set up at the clos­ing par­ty and lots of peo­ple played on it. Good stuff.

Apart from this I have been busy find­ing projects for Twee­t­akt 2011’s inter­ac­tive pro­gram, and man­ag­ing the Pam­pus group project at the HKU.1 My interns at Hub­bub are also plug­ging away at the Learn­ing Lab games, they deliv­ered their sec­ond one last week.

Good grief. No won­der I was a lit­tle sick and had to take a day off yes­ter­day. I’m hop­ing to take a it a lit­tle bit eas­i­er the com­ing peri­od. No idea how, though. Any ideas?

  1. The group is blog­ging, too, by the way. []

Week 169

Fiona Raby once told me that the major­i­ty of her work with stu­dents at the RCA was about psy­chol­o­gy. After a week like this, I can see where she’s com­ing from. With­out going into too much detail, I had my work cut out for me with a new group of stu­dents who I will be work­ing with on a design research project at the HKU. After a first meet­ing with the team and a kick-off with the client the next day, it became clear I was deal­ing with a group with some seri­ous moti­va­tion­al issues. The trick was to fig­ure out where it all was com­ing from. To do this it was vital to try and see things as they real­ly are in stead of as they were pre­sent­ed to me by the group. After sev­er­al addi­tion­al ses­sions (mess­ing with my sched­ule but that comes with the ter­ri­to­ry) I had it fig­ured out more or less and have for­mu­lat­ed a plan to deal with it. Psy­chol­o­gy.

In between all that crazi­ness my week con­sist­ed of:

  • Work­ing with my two new interns at Hub­bub. We reflect­ed on their expe­ri­ences at the Nat­ur­al Net­work­ing Fes­ti­val and pre­sent­ed a post-mortem of the first game to Thieu after attend­ing one of the Learn­ing Lab mee­tups.
  • Sketch­ing out addi­tions to the PLAY Pilots web­site nec­es­sary to sup­port the Zes­baans instal­la­tion for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val. These will launch next week in time for the installation’s unveil­ing on Thurs­day.
  • Pre­sent­ing my pre­lim­i­nary list of inter­ac­tive works suit­able for next year’s Twee­t­akt fes­ti­val. This is my first time curat­ing an event oth­er than This hap­pened. I am keen to mash up play­ful inter­ac­tion design with the fringes of game design and it seems Twee­t­akt are up for it too. Hap­py days.
  • Anoth­er full day of work on Maguro. Best part of which was a few qui­et hours to bang out a first playable paper pro­to­type of the game. Con­ver­gence is a bitch but always reward­ing when it hap­pens.
  • Today, I hung out at BUROPONY and took care of a few odds and ends for their web­site. In return work has start­ed on a last bit of Hub­bub cor­po­rate iden­ti­ty: a design for the box to hold our busi­ness-slash-col­lectible play­ing cards.

And with that I am sign­ing off. A train is tak­ing me from Rot­ter­dam to Utrecht, per­haps I will be in time to catch the tail end of fri­day drinks at the Dutch Game Gar­den. Nev­er a dull moment there.

Week 166

This week was all about fran­ti­cal­ly get­ting things sort­ed so that I can com­plete­ly dis­con­nect for a week on start­ing fri­day (tomor­row).

  • Putting up the scaf­fold­ing for project Fugu; a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Riv­er Insti­tute on an exper­i­ment in high­er edu­ca­tion at the UvA. Hub­bub will be design­ing some ARG-ish addi­tions to its pro­gram. I am bring­ing on board two interns to work with me on this. I’ll have them intro­duce them­selves at the Hub­bub blog soon.
  • Final exams at the HKU which is best described as a roller-coast­er ride of drain­ing and exhil­a­rat­ing moments. I judged the work of 10 inter­ac­tion design and game design stu­dents, includ­ing those I coached myself. Some were very good. There is a show at the fac­ul­ty on sep­tem­ber 10 & 11 called EJECT.
  • Had some meet­ings about yet anoth­er project which I have decid­ed to code­name Ika. This is a mix of me coach­ing a group of HKU stu­dents and doing design research in the cul­tur­al her­itage domain. A hybrid edu­ca­tion­al mod­el.
  • Var­i­ous man­age­ment-type activ­i­ties for PLAY Pilots. Most­ly aimed at help­ing the Zes­baans / NFF pilot make it into the world and get­ting the Wip ‘n’ Kip addi­tions for the site up.
  • This after­noon we’ll kick off project Maguro which is about using per­va­sive games for inter­nal train­ing pur­pos­es at a gov­ern­ment agency.
  • Tomor­row at 12:15 I will get on this boat to this island and will be very hard to reach for a week. I plan to do a lot of read­ing, cycling and walk­ing and not much else. Well, sleep­ing prob­a­bly. Lots of that too.

So, don’t expect any notes for week 167. I’ll be back to report on #168.

Week 165

So week 165. One of those old-fash­ioned frag­ment­ed weeks that reminds me of why I decid­ed a while ago that I should stop hav­ing more than two meet­ings on one day. Any­way.

Fol­low­ing the week­end of Stekker Fest crazi­ness I had a bit of an off day on Mon­day. Tues­day I sat down with Ianus and Alexan­der to make plans for the next This hap­pened — Utrecht. We’ve had a bit of trou­ble find­ing a venue, get­ting financ­ing and every­thing but it looks like we’re all set. Mon­day 4 Octo­ber at The­ater Kikker in Utrecht, NL. Save the date.

From Ams­ter­dam I trav­eled on to Rot­ter­dam and spent some time at Simon’s sketch­ing out the addi­tions to PLAY Pilots for the Wip ‘n’ Kip game data. I also dropped by BUROPONY. They might make some­thing cool for This hap­pened atten­dees…

Wednes­day I had cof­fee with Thieu and Godelieve at the West­er­gas­fab­riek in Ams­ter­dam to talk about a new project which I’ve dubbed Fugu. It deals with exper­i­men­tal (game-like) new forms of high­er edu­ca­tion. I am tak­ing on board two interns to help me out with that. That’ll be an inter­est­ing new expe­ri­ence. I also hooked up with Peter, who is now at Adap­tive Path Ams­ter­dam. Cool build­ing, they seem to be doing well. Nice.

In the after­noon on Wednes­day I was back in Utrecht to talk to Ezra, who is involved with some inter­est­ing research into cycling. He’s based in Copen­hagen. We dis­cussed ways in which we might use low-tech per­va­sive urban games to shape cycle use. Who knows, Hub­bub might ven­ture there to do some exper­i­ments in future.

I fin­ished that day off with a review of a stu­dent pre­sen­ta­tion. Final exams is next week; that’ll eat up a lot of my time.

Ah what’s more? Thurs­day, more edu­ca­tion­al work, I attend­ed a kick-off of the new aca­d­e­m­ic year at the HKU’s school of art and tech­nol­o­gy. I liked the fact that all teach­ers were there and sat down to sync their class­es and assign­ments in such a way that they all con­nect­ed to projects stu­dents would be doing. Prop­er project-based art edu­ca­tion. Good to see that hap­pen.

And today I am review­ing one more stu­dent pre­sen­ta­tion and am spend­ing some time with Alper on PLAY Pilots and relat­ed bits.

Look­ing ahead, next week will be about the afore­men­tioned final exams and also the kick-off of project Maguro. I have to say I am run­ning on fumes a bit and can’t wait for next week because on fri­day I will head to Ter­schelling for a week and unplug com­plete­ly.

Almost for­got about Boc­ce Drift this Sun­day. Come along and play.

Week 161

This past week, again, was most­ly about project Ebi. We kicked off the third iter­a­tion on mon­day with a review of the ver­sion we deliv­ered the fri­day before. What fol­lowed was a heat­ed dis­cus­sion about the rule­set. I felt it need­ed a bit more depth so play­ers would have more inter­est­ing choic­es. The trick is to not go over­board with the com­plex­i­ty, because we want the game to still have imme­di­ate appeal.

By the way, project Ebi has a name now and it is PLAY Pilots. The site is still cloaked but the process blog — where you can find many won­der­ful wee­knotes by Fource­Labs and Zes­baans as well as our­selves — is pub­lic. We’re also on Twit­ter and Face­book. Keep tabs on those chan­nels to get ear­ly access to the BETA

On tues­day I head­ed to Ams­ter­dam for a taste of Stump­town’s cof­fee — some­thing Alper had been bug­ging me about for ages — and a trip to Pris­tine for some acces­sories for my new bike. I spent the rest of the day at Alper’s stu­dio review­ing one of my stu­dents grad­u­a­tion the­sis. She’s designed a point-and-click adven­ture game with an inter­sex pro­tag­o­nist, an attempt to cri­tique gen­der con­ven­tions through game­play. Inter­est­ing stuff.

On wednes­day I con­tin­ued work on Ebi with the team. It was Bernard’s last day before his vaca­tion so we wrapped up an impor­tant part of the copy. In the after­noon I head­ed to the Ned­er­lands Film Fes­ti­val’s office to kick off the sec­ond pilot that is part of Ebi, which will be cre­at­ed by the awe­some crew at Zes­baans. They have post­ed their first wee­knote over at the project blog.

Thurs­day, I met up with a few of my stu­dents. Some still require help, but a few oth­ers are at the point that they looked apolo­getic when I asked when they would like to meet again. They’re in the final phase of their work, and I’ve done what I can. We’ll see each oth­er at the finals, which will be in august.

A first for Hub­bub, I had a chat with an pos­si­ble intern on thurs­day too. I’m still not sure if we’ve reached the point where we can offer a good envi­ron­ment for interns (I take the edu­ca­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty we would have quite seri­ous) so we’ll have to see if we take one on board.

On fri­day, I was back at the soon-to-be new Dutch Game Gar­den on the Neude square — we’re mov­ing next week — to work with the Ebi team. Alper was most­ly hack­ing away at sign-in stuff for Twit­ter and also the new ver­sion of the game engine. Simon made good progress with the designs for the game inter­face and I was surf­ing for fun cus­tomiz­able gad­get to hand out to our play­ers dur­ing the first fes­ti­val we’ll appear at; Stekker Fest 2010. Would you fan­cy an eight­ies style sun­cap?

Also, a few of our Fource­Labs friends dropped by to dis­cuss tech­ni­cal mat­ters deal­ing with how we’d inte­grate the web game we’re build­ing with the phys­i­cal one they’re doing for Stekker Fest. They also showed some awe­some mock­ups of the whole set­up made with LEGO. They’ve also been play­ing around with high speed cam­eras, yield­ing awe­some footage. I’m sure they’ll share more details in their next post.

Week 160

So here we are at the end of week 160 which has been most­ly about project Ebi. Today we’re wrap­ping up the sec­ond iter­a­tion of the project. It’s crazy to think we have been going for only four weeks in total now and at this point we have a a first soft­ware ver­sion of the game run­ning with copy and design shap­ing up nice­ly too. My per­son­al con­tri­bu­tion hasn’t been that huge, it’s most­ly been about mak­ing sure the killer team I’ve assem­bled (if I may say so myself) can do its job.

In between writ­ing this, me and Bernard are play­ing with the pro­to­type, as Alper is hack­ing away at it. Mean­while Simon (back from a vaca­tion to Aus­tria, his father­land) is back in Rot­ter­dam pol­ish­ing some of the new screens we’ve iden­ti­fied after set­tling on a rule­set.

Aside from this I’ve spent some time again at the HKU talk­ing to stu­dents. This includ­ed a live demo of a game a few of them are work­ing on that involves brain con­trol. They’ve got­ten their hands on an Emo­tiv BCI and are fig­ur­ing out ways to make mas­ter­ing thought pat­terns as a play­er actu­al­ly doable. Stu­dents have all the fun these days.

Week 155 & 156

I have some catch­ing up to do with these. What can I say, things got in the way of writ­ing last week’s notes.

These past two weeks I have been push­ing to get a new project, code­named Ebi, off the ground. It is the next step in my involve­ment with the PLAY project in Utrecht. I’ve put togeth­er a team con­sist­ing of Alper, Bernard and Simon to build a game that will tie togeth­er sev­er­al oth­er play­ful things that will take place over the com­ing months at sev­er­al Utrecht events. We’ve had our kick-off and are now in the midst of the first sprint, with deliv­ery of a first rough sys­tem by the end of next week. Copy is being writ­ten, soft­ware is being devel­oped and designs are being made. It’s a plea­sure to see this ad-hoc team com­ing togeth­er so fast and get­ting down to busi­ness. That takes real skill, in addi­tion to the crafts­man­ship each brings to the table.

Oth­er than that, project Buta (anoth­er code­name) start­ed this week, which is a research thing at the new Design for Play­ful Impact group at the HKU. We’ve been doing field research and have been sketch­ing and pro­to­typ­ing ini­tial ideas. The sub­ject mat­ter is kind of con­tro­ver­sial, so I can’t share too much about it, oth­er than that it involves pigs. Yes, pigs.

In between, I dropped by the pre­sen­ta­tion of the U-turm project, a stu­dent project where I act­ed as advi­sor on. The demo worked nice­ly. With some addi­tion­al work on the game design I am sure it will be a hit in Dort­mund. I also attend­ed Layar’s one-year anniver­sary event, where sev­er­al things were unveiled that I had some part in, such as the all-new float­i­cons.

Look­ing ahead, I’ll be busy with Ebi for the next month or two and will also have to take some time to move into a new stu­dio, that I will be shar­ing with Fource­Labs in the new Dutch Game Gar­den on the Neude. Ace loca­tion, nice space, can’t wait for that to hap­pen.

Week 154

A very low-key, qui­et week this was. Part­ly due to the fact that I took the Mon­day off (gasp!) And part­ly due just to the fact that it’s one of those in between peri­ods. Old projects wind­ing down, new ones start­ing up.

One of those new projects I’ve code­named Ebi. It’s the next step we’re tak­ing with the thing called PLAY that I’ve talked about here before. I’ve been build­ing a team and we’re ready to kick off next week.

I’ve also seen my stu­dents again, dis­cussing the after­math of their mid-terms. Some are mov­ing ahead with­out trou­ble, oth­ers need some help. The trick is to fig­ure out which stu­dent needs which kind of feed­back.

And final­ly, you might like to know I met with Ianus and Alexan­der to talk about the next batch of This hap­pened – Utrecht events. There, it’s a chal­lenge to bal­ance our urge to make each edi­tion bet­ter than the next one with the fact that, essen­tial­ly, we’re doing it all for the fun of it, not for busi­ness.

Week 153

I total­ly for­got to post this last week; I’ll blame it on a com­bi­na­tion of excel­lent weath­er and too much work on my hands. We’re already well into week 154, but to give you a brief overview of what num­ber 153 looked like, let me just say it was more or less divid­ed between:

  1. prepar­ing for and sub­se­quent­ly run­ning a hand full of urban games at the NU Grounds fes­ti­val in Lei­d­sche Rijn (we had gor­geous weath­er and a lot of fun, can’t wait to run more)
  2. sit­ting on a mid-term exam com­mit­tee at the HKU (exhaust­ing, but when a stu­dent nails it, as hap­pened sev­er­al times, it’s a real treat)

I also attend­ed Kun­st­gras where a book pro­fil­ing sev­er­al cre­ative entre­pre­neurs in Utrecht (for which I was inter­viewed) was pre­sent­ed.

That all left me quite spent so I took Mon­day off. Which, I think, is a first in over 6 months. And now we’re in the sec­ond week after my return from Copen­hagen. It already seems ages ago since I stepped off that air­plane.